Illegal wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic reports that seizures of large shipments of elephant ivory hit a new record high in 2011, with at least 13 seizures of ivory cargos in excess of 800kg. In 2010 just six seizures of this size were made.
Though official figures on the total volume of ivory seized has not yet be calculated, Traffic conservatively estimates that 23 tons of illegal ivory, probably from about 2500 elephants, was intercepted this year.
Traffic's Tom Milliken said in a press statement:
2011 has truly been a horrible year for elephants. The escalating large ivory quantities involved in 2011 reflect both a rising demand in Asia and the increasing sophistication of the criminal gangs behind the trafficking. Most illegal shipments of African elephant ivory end-up in either China of Thailand...the routes are constantly changing, presumably reflecting where the smugglers gamble on their best chance of eluding detection.
That said, based on the fact that in six of the seizures made this year were made there, Malaysia is emerging as a significant transit nation for illegal trade in ivory.
The international ivory trade was only made illegal in 1989.
Some examples of the tole poaching is taking on elephants: Since the 1980s, Liberia's elephant population has declined 95%; in west and central Africa, populations have dropped 50% in the past four decades; at current poaching rates, the International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that all of the remaining African elephants in the wild will be extinct by 2025.